C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
I thought I’d got away with it this week – it was 10am on Saturday morning and I was standing in the queue at the Post Office waiting to collect a parcel. No changes, no cry offs – the team was as selected on Wednesday night for the first time this season. Then Hiren called.
Someone had dropped out from the first team. Cue the domino effect and much calling around, movement of this person and then that person. Thanks to much last minute help from Peter – what would the club do without him? – all of the league sides were back to being eleven.
Previous to this, my only concern was the weather – a biblical deluge of rain late on Friday evening had me wondering what we would find at Edmonton. The answer was a pitch quite unlike any other that I have seen, at least for a long time. It was wet (water had got under the covers) but rather than the expected vibrant green, it was brown. Very brown.
The well-meaning actions of Edmonton’s groundsman, who tried to rectify the overnight damage by rolling the pitch, had turned it to mud. As both teams surveyed the wreckage, numerous expletives were heard. It was agreed to let it dry out a bit and we would start half an hour late. It would be a toss not to lose.
The fact that I did not lose the toss was to be my most telling contribution of the day. Richmond were politely asked to bat and Kam and Quayum opened with a wayward over each. Then they settled superbly to both bowl good and tight spells. Runs were at a premium and Richmond edged along at 1.5 an over. Quayum claimed the first wicket with a tidy caught and bowled to dismiss their skipper.
Both bowled very well but started to tire, so were replaced by Ricardo and me. Their combined spells had kept Richmond to just 38 runs off the first 18 overs. Ricardo bagged a wicket in his first over thanks to a good ball and sharp catch at slip by Kam to remove the other opener. I struggled and quickly removed myself from the attack as the two new batsmen picked me off with regularity.
My own disappointment was curtailed by Moh, who replaced me and took two wickets in his first over – the first bamboozling and bowling Richmond’s second best batsman, then bowling the incoming batsmen next ball with one that spun in sharply to clip the top of leg stump. The hat-trick ball was a good one too but was safely negotiated by their best batsman. Ricardo was still going at the other end, but with little reward.
Moh then claimed his third as he scampered down the wicket with surprising speed to grab a caught and bowled. Kam returned and removed the danger man for a stubborn 46 with a good ball – it was a very good innings given the pitch conditions. Some late hitting was balanced by a flurry of wickets – Kam claiming two more bowled, Rob and Ranil combining for a run out and Moh getting his fourth to wrap up the innings. Richmond 146 all out in 48 overs.
The pitch was still not great but had dried out a bit. Our chase was going to be tough. However, we were quickly out of the traps – a combination of short pitched bowling and the expansive shots of the returning Khairul, fresh from his 103 last week for the 4s, doing instant damage. In no time we were going at seven an over. When Khairul was out in the seventh over, thanks to a stunning catch at deep backward square, we were on 42. He had scored 33 of them.
At the other end, the also returning Ross was serenely going about his business. A combination of classy shots and effortless finding of gaps in the field meant he ticked along nicely. Apu joined him and looked good, carrying on his good form from last week. After a couple of big shots, he fell. Sadly Rob did also shortly afterwards when he was bowled. Richmond were starting to get excited and sensing a collapse.
Hassan came in to join Ross and the pair almost saw us home, similar to how Rob and Apu had the week before. Both were watchful against the good balls, particularly one tricky left arm medium pacer who was probably introduced too late, but dispatched the poorer ones. Their diligence ground Richmond’s enthusiasm down and pushed us towards the victory target. It was a pleasure to watch from my umpiring position.
When Hassan was out for a very promising 22, thanks to a simply incredible catch at deep mid off, we needed under 20 to win. He had done a great job. Quayum came in and bashed a four and a six to reduce it further.
Ross, who had serenely moved in to the early 40s and was in danger of missing out on a well deserved 50. A bit of frustrating fiddling about between him and Quayum saw him finally get there with a snick passed the keeper for four. He had carried his bat on a tricky pitch – it was a very classy knock.
We won by six wickets with eleven overs to spare. It was a very pleasing result against a decent side and one that shows that we truly belong and can compete in this league, given this quality of availability. This side was similar in depth and standard to those that got us promoted last year and the results are starting to come.
One look at the league table sees us in seventh place, but that does not tell the full story – Hampstead are carrying on from last year and are screaming away at the top (they’ve won all seven matches this year including absolutely crushing second-placed Osterley last week) and Finchley and Edmonton are marooned at the bottom. The middle is very congested – we are just seven points behind third and a good run from now until the end could even see us challenge for the second promotion spot.
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